The Gonzaga Band was formed by cornettist Jamie Savan in 1997, in order to explore historical approaches to the performance of vocal and instrumental music of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Its line-up is flexible: the musicians heard on this recording – Steven Devine, Richard Sweeney and Faye Newton besides Jamie Savan himself – form the nucleus of the group, which expands on occasion to include other leading vocal and period-instrument specialists according to the specific requirements of each programme. Jamie Savan commented on the recording, ‘Catherine Bott once described our blend of cornett and voice as that of “two soprano instruments” matched “in dazzling duet”. We hope our recording will live up to this high praise.’
The ensemble takes its name from the Gonzaga Dukes of Mantua, who were powerful and influential patrons of the arts in the late Renaissance period. The Gonzaga family employed Claudio Monteverdi as their maestro di cappella, and he presided over a musical establishment that was, for a time, the envy of the world.
For this collection The Gonzaga Band has chosen some of the most beautiful music from the dawn of the baroque era in Italy. Some of the composers, such as Monteverdi, Frescobaldi, Merula and Grandi, are well known today. Others, such as Nicolò Corradini, Benedetto Re and Archangelo Crotti, are minor masters whose music has been unjustly forgotten.
All the composers represented on this disc share a gift for writing accessible, tuneful music for solo voice with obbligato instruments. The challenge is for the instrumentalist to play as vocally as possible, whilst the singer needs an instrumentalist’s technique to negotiate the virtuosic demands of this repertoire. The Gonzaga Band successfully meets this challenge in Sacred Garland.
“Faultless and fascinating - must-have music by Monteverdi's contemporaries. Faye Newton sings delightfully, and the players - especially Savan on the cornett - are impossible to fault. Great stuff.” Gramophone Magazine, October 2009